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Schumacher Sets Sights Low

World Champion Michael Schumacher has lowered his sights to securing a "hopeful podium" in this Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix after a disappointing performance in Saturday's first qualifying session

Schumacher, who waltzed to the title by winning 12 of the first 13 races of the season last year, struggled with a modified version of Ferrari's all-conquering F2004 machine.

But after finishing a dismal 12th place he insisted that while Renault and McLaren are favourites for victory the race pace his car has showed could put him on for a top-three finish.

"In the long runs yesterday we looked very competitive so we should be competitive in the race and obviously the race is more important than the qualifying," said Schumacher.

"We cannot just take decisions which make us look quick in qualifying, we have to think about the race. The race pace is pretty good so we should be able to end up in the points and hopefully even on the podium."

Ferrari look likely to introduce their new F2005 car two races ahead of schedule in the Bahrain Grand Prix in two weeks' time because of their failure to perform in the first two races of the year.

Barrichello finished strongly with second place in the season-opening Australian race but Schumacher failed to finish and the pair qualified 12th and 14th respectively for this Sunday's race.

Schumacher knows they are already too far back and he admitted that even when the new car arrives they will struggle to match the pace of their rivals in qualifying because it is designed to maximise performance in the race.

"We won't be able to recover the whole situation because we have seen over the winter that on one lap we have struggled some times," said Schumacher, who has already admitted he wants the new car as soon as possible.

"This morning we have been a bit surprised when we have seen the times go down because yesterday we were in the picture with the times. It will be a long and hard race so let's see what we can do tomorrow.

"We have to be realistic, you cannot expect too much, and it's very clear that Renault and McLaren are the big ones in the race to watch. You have to see that even in winter sometimes Toyota have been very fast on one lap.

"But very often then the pace went down over the distance and if they do this tomorrow it could be good for the Renault. I think they will go in front at the start and then they can stay in front because the others will sit behind a Toyota, which will be slower and slower and slower."

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